On Sunday, March 14, Marvin D. Scott III was hanging out at the Allen Premium Outlets when he was detained by Allen Police and arrested for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis. On Monday, March 15, his mother, Lasandra Scott, received a text message from the Collin County Medical Examiner informing her that Marvin had died.
“I woke up and looked at my cell phone. And when I saw the text message, I knew what it meant,” Lasandra said during a press conference at the Collin County Courthouse on March 23.
Possession of cannabis is still illegal in the state of Texas, but has been effectively decriminalized in some cities, including Dallas. For several years, state law has allowed police departments to cite and release individuals who possess less than four ounces of cannabis. But that didn’t happen in Marvin’s case.
“My brother was arrested for smoking a joint at the Allen outlet mall, and the next day he was dead,” says Quinten Scott, Marvin’s brother.
Quinten remembers Marvin as a kind and creative soul. “He was very, very creative, like he used to draw all the time. I loved his drawings, they were so beautiful,” Quinten told the Dallas Weekly.
Marvin’s mother, Lasandra, says that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago, and that he had been using cannabis as a way to self medicate because he did not like the way that his prescribed medication affected his body. He had gone a year without a significant schizophrenic episode. Until he was arrested by Allen police.
“Marvin David Scott III was the most joyful, amazing soul that you would ever meet. He was fun and helpful and is just truly going to be missed,” Lasandra Scott told the Dallas Weekly.
When Marvin was arrested, he appeared to be undergoing a mental health crisis. Initially, Marvin was taken to Allen Presbyterian Hospital, but it’s unclear why he didn’t remain there.
“Allen PD recognized that Marvin was in a crisis… He was given medical clearance and taken to the Collin County Detention Facility. Why was he given medical clearance?” Lasandra Scott asked during the press conference.
This was not the first time Marvin had been arrested, nor was it the first time he had been taken to a medical facility. According to lawyer and civil rights activist Lee Merritt, who is representing the Scott family, Marvin had been given medication and returned to his family on previous occasions. But this time, that didn’t happen.
“The reason that he was taken into custody was really his mental health issue and that’s primarily our concern, that people with mental health issues are being treated more criminally than the general population,” Merritt says.
A preliminary independent autopsy report suggests that, aside from a bruise on his arm and a slightly enlarged heart, Marvin did not sustain any serious injuries before his death. Amy Gruszecki, who conducted the autopsy, could not provide a definitive cause of death, and says that more information about what happened in the moments before Marvin’s death is necessary.
Based on what he has learned from his conversations with law enforcement officials, Merritt believes that responsibility for Marvin’s death lies with the officers who attempted to restrain him after he began to deteriorate in his cell.
Marvin was initially held in the general population holding cell and later moved to solitary confinement after he began to exhibit signs of distress. After he further deteriorated, and began to exhibit signs which the officers believed could lead to self-harm, several police officers began to restrain him.
Merritt and the Scott family are still waiting on the results of a toxicology report to rule out other narcotics as contributing factors to Marvin’s death. If those are ruled out, Merritt believes there are other contributing factors that place the responsibility on Collin County.
“There’s contributing factors…which are clear in the video that has not been released… the unlawful restraint, the mace, the spit hood, and the struggle,” Merritt said at the press conference.
Marvin’s death shocked his community. On Wednesday, March 17, two hundred people attended a vigil and balloon release in Marvin’s memory.
“Marvin was a friend to all. When I would come home from work, there would sometimes be 20 people at my house. Everybody loved him,” says Marvin’s father, Marvin Scott Jr.
In the days after his death, Marvin’s community has continued to show up in support of his family. On Thursday, March 18, dozens of people showed up to protest Marvin’s death and what they see as a lack of accountability and transparency within Collin County law enforcement. They protested throughout the day and well into the evening. At some points outside the Collin County Detention Center, at other times marching through the lobby and public halls.
Patrick Warren Jr., whose father was shot by Killeen police in January, drove several hours to show his support to the Scott family.
“Don’t let this be a topic. Don’t let this be a hashtag. Don’t let up,” Warren said to the crowd in an emotional speech.
At the March 23rd press conference they were supported by Kevin Tarver, the father of Darius Tarver, who was shot by Denton police in early 2020. Kevin too is a police officer and he wants to see the end to policies that shield bad cops, like qualified immunity.
Seven employees at Collin County jail are currently on administrative leave following Marvin’s death.
The Scott family wants to see these officers arrested. Merritt, their lawyer, believes there is enough probable cause to justify their arrests. But the Collin County Sheriff’s department has declined to do so, citing the ongoing investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety, even though the Sheriff’s office is also involved in part of the investigation, and that the Collin County Prosecutor’s office has yet to become involved.
“The criminal act is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the administrative component is being investigated by Sheriff Skinner and his office. Although it is led by the Texas Rangers, it is only half of the investigation. The Collin County Prosecutor’s Office has let us know that they have not received a formal update, or even introduction to this case. I found it very strange,” Merritt said at the press conference.
The names of the seven officers on administrative leave have yet to be released.
The Scott family is not satisfied with this response. They intend to protest every day until the officers involved in the case have been arrested.
“We will protest every day until they are arrested. Show up and show out to the protests. Call Sheriff Skinner, call the Texas Rangers, call Attorney General Ken Paxton, and demand justice for Marvin” says LaChay Batts, Marvin’s sister.
Whether the messages will be heard is to be seen. For his part, Merritt doesn’t seem to have much faith in Attorney General Ken Paxton, who he says he will challenge in the 2022 election. “If he doesn’t do his job, then I’ll take his job,” Merritt told a crowd of protesters on March 18.